Preview: With Stephen Curry and Tony Parker banged up, other Warriors and Spurs will have to step up in Game 4

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When the Spurs and Warriors face off today, they’ll do so with both their floor generals not 100% physically. And while Parker is sure he’ll play with his bruised calf, Curry is only “optimistic” he’ll be able to see the floor and sounds far from certain he’ll be near his best if he does play.

For the Warriors that’s not the best of news, obviously. Curry has been spectacular these playoffs and the focal point of his team’s high powered attack. These playoffs, when Curry is on the floor the Warriors boast an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 110.8, but that number dips to an astonishingly low 83.0 when he goes to the bench, per NBA.com. If Curry isn’t able to approach his normal standards, the question then becomes if they can get enough production from the rest of their backcourt players to match a potent Spurs’ offense.

Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson will need to raise their respective games, especially relative to what they were able to provide in game 3. Today, Jack can’t be the turnover machine he was and will need to avoid playing with the tunnel vision that freezes out his teammates way too often. Thompson, meanwhile, must get into the flow of the game early and often, looking for his shot off pin downs and in transition to help boost the offense.

Beyond the guards, the Warriors will also need for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green to be assertive when they have match up advantages. Both have the ability to create offense for themselves and for others and if Curry is hampered, they’ll need to provide that extra playmaking to help supplement what Curry can’t provide. If both can not only get some key basket for themselves but create a few easy ones for the Warriors’ big men when the Spurs help, it would go a long way towards a successful day on that end.

Where the Warriors really need to figure things out is defensively. The Spurs, like they did in the Lakers’ series, seem to be rounding into form after getting a good sense of what their opponent likes to do defensively.

Tony Parker seems to be sorting out where the gaps in the defense are and is attacking when given space while hitting his jumper when his man tries to deny those driving lanes. That said, if his bum calf hampers his ability to create off the dribble, other Spurs ball handlers will need to step in and provide those skills. In game 1, Manu Ginobili was able to provide playmaking, but his scoring has suffered in this series. If he can break out today, it would be a huge boost to San Antonio.

In his own way, Tim Duncan may also have fill some of the playmaking void should Parker not be up to his normal standards. Operating from the elbow and the low post, Duncan can not only score but can be a facilitator for teammates when his team goes into their motion heavy sets. If Duncan shots start to fall, it will only open up his passing angles further and that will spell trouble for a Golden State defense that didn’t bring their top effort in game 3.

But, ultimately, this game will come down which team can get more from their banged up guards. Because while others will need to chip in, both Curry and Parker are too important to what their teams want to do offensively. And if either is substantially hampered in this game, their team will struggle to make up the difference in production as the defense tightens up against everyone else.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.